The question of online poker and gambling legislation in Pennsylvania keeps dragging on. Thursday saw House members vote on a complex bill aimed at dealing with many issues, including the unconstitutional gaming law in the state, and passing it on to the Senate.
At this point in time, it seems that the biggest issue is the fact that everything that needs to be dealt with has been placed in the same bill. So, the bill would not only set up a legal framework for online gambling, but it would also offer a legislative fix, following the recent Supreme Court ruling, which struck down the municipal share of the tax paid by most of the brick & mortar casinos.
Indirectly, the decision also affected PA counties, including Washington and Allegheny. The Supreme Court gave the legislators four months to fix the legislation, because they deemed the current one, forcing casinos to pay municipal taxes, unconstitutional.
PA Online Gambling Bill: What’s Really at Stake
Although we are mostly focused on the online poker regulation, the bill was drafted in such a way that it is either passed in its entirety or not at all. The real issue, it seems, is not the online gambling at all. The state already counts with the $100 million budget injection the legislation would secure.
But, there is a catch.
Local lawmakers are facing a tough decision with the PA online gambling bill. Voting against it would mean a huge hit for the counties, which would stand to lose around $140 million in slot machine taxes paid by land-based establishments.
Voting yes would be going against Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem, owned by Sheldon Adelson, a billionaire who’s been a stark opponent of online gambling since day one. Sands has never had an issue with paying their dues to municipalities and counties.
PA Online Gambling Bill Lost in Bigger Issues
The Senate will be deciding on the legislation in November, but it is quite clear that there is a much bigger fish to fry here. It is quite possible for PA online gambling bill, which would also regulate online poker, will be blocked due to more pressing concerns.
The new legislation proposes a flat $10 million fee for the casinos instead of the old tax burdens, but Mount Airy Casino, who brought the case before the Supreme Court, are opposing this idea as well. They are threatening legal actions again.
Not being a lawyer, politician, or tax exper myself, I admit I am not fully able to explain the situation and everything that’s at stake here. However, what is perfectly clear is that PA online gambling bill is being hold back for reasons that have nothing to do with online poker or gambling.
Why these two bills couldn’t have been presented separately eludes my understanding, but perhaps that’s because I am not a politician or a lawyer.